How To Write Stand-up Comedy Material The Hard Way

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One of the very first things that I notice about new and prospective comedians is that…

They are driven to try to “write jokes” (in the literal sense) in order to try to command the big laughs on stage.

I am more than familiar with this frustrating process. It’s what I tried to do when I first started out as a comedian.

And it should come as no surprise as to the reason why that happens. It is quite simple actually…

All through our years of primary education, we are taught to write in a particular way that is specifically designed for others to consume by reading.

In other words, we are more than familiar with what writing is and how to do it. We’ve all been trained on how to do that since youth.

But when that already acquired writing skill is applied to the process of writing stand-up comedy material, it seems to fall short and not produce the laughter results a comedian wants when they take that material to the stage.

Very funny and very talented individuals can get caught in an ironic purgatory of sorts, where they can make others laugh almost at will in everyday life but…

As soon as they start “writing” jokes the way all the stand-up comedy books, courses, and workshops say that you have to, they simply bomb on stage. That should be a hint all by itself.

What would you say if I told you that the chances are great that what you believe to be the “way” to develop stand-up comedy material that will work well for you on stage is almost all wrong (more accurately, missing a ton of very important information)?

More accurately put, I will be so bold as to say that what you believe “writing” stand-up comedy material to be is actually taken out of context if you can embrace this simple and easily observable fact that gets largely overlooked and that is:

Writing and speaking are two distinctly different forms of communication.

Consider this as you consider getting into the game of stand-up comedy — information that doesn’t quite line up with the conventional “joke writing” process…

1. “Joke writing” as it is taught today is difficult at best to master. It doesn’t account for the 93% of the real impact when it comes to laughter generation – body language, facial expressions and voice tone variations.

2. We are formally taught to “write” in a structure designed to be read, which is significantly different than the way we speak and express ourselves verbally.

Audiences don’t read a comedian’s stand-up comedy material. They experience the stand-up comedy material the way the comedian expresses it.

3. It is the visual and auditory supplemental communication you use when talking that reduces the number of words needed when speaking verbally vice “writing”.

Many more words are needed when “writing” to communicate than we use when we speak to someone.

Comedians simply don’t have this luxury if they want to generate headliner level comedy material that generates 4-6+ laughs per performing minute on stage.

Related Article: Are You Using A One Dimensional Approach In A Three Dimensional Performing Art?

4. Individuals don’t need to know how to write a single “joke” in order to develop comedy material for the stage that works. But they do need to know how to structure and capitalize on the well developed sense of humor and comedy talent they already have.

5. The longer you can stay on a topic, the less set-up you have and the easier it is to add punchlines and tag lines to you material. This is difficult to do with individual jokes produced on paper from thin air.

I could literally go on and on and on.

No one can “write” their way to having more comedy talent or a better personality for stand-up comedy.

However you CAN learn how to quickly and easily capitalize on the comedy talent you have to get big laughs on stage.

Before I continue let me be perfectly clear:

Creating and delivering stand-up comedy material that works in a big way is a challenging adventure. There are many aspects that should be taken into account in order to develop a personalized process and the resulting stand-up comedy material that produces the laughter results a comedian wants.

But I will also tell you that none of what I teach comedians to do in my online course is difficult at all — certainly not anywhere near as difficult as “writing” tends to be.

Plus it can be a whole lot of fun when big laughter happens frequently.

Related Video:



But for those who are stuck — convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that one can simply “write” their way to being funny on stage funny…

You would probably be best served to get your hands on any one of these popular books on writing comedy:

Popular Books On Stand-up Comedy Writing

Put what they say to do to the test for 6 months. See if you can get significant and measurable results like these folks enjoy.

However, if you are truly a talented individual and don’t want to waste your valuable trying to somehow magically make conventional old school joke writing work for you…

Check out the free lessons available now in the Killer Stand-up Online Course.

About 

Leading stand-up comedy educator and trainer, providing proven 21st century strategies and techniques for individuals who wish to become comedians on a professional level. For a detailed stand-up comedy resume go to: Steve Roye’s Stand-up Resume.

7 thoughts on “How To Write Stand-up Comedy Material The Hard Way

  1. Steve is right because even dead-pan comics are ‘personality based’. I’m not a fan of Jimmy Car because he fires off a straight line of one-liner set-up and punchlines but that’s him. Also he’s super intelligent having being public (in UK means expensive private)school and Oxbridge educated. But at the end of the day he will the guy down the pub/bar who does the wise cracks and one-liners so that translate to his act. You get deadpan people every where – the sulky sales assistant, the bored teacher, the fed up and cynic co-worker – so why not comedy? I also agree with Steve it’s about honing your natural comic ability. I know because I have about seven books of writing comedy bought over the years and they bore me. However finding this site had given me some inspiration. We are all different so this reflects in our abilities.

  2. I recently finished my first novel and it’s over 500 pages. I am currently seeking an agent and book deal, so I know about the tedium of writing. Everyone has to “write” their joke/stand-up routine at some point, but unlike long scenes my book, stand-up needs a much faster pace. I started out writing long intertwined stand-up routines that are multi-layered. That was year 1. Now by year 3, I am realizing that you can have a long joke, but you need minor jokes to entertain until your major punches come along. It takes practice and determination to develop a style. The deadpan comics Jason refers to DO HAVE movements, and voice inflections at times. But they cater their writing TO THAT STYLE, but I’m sure it’s just as hard to come up with material, if not harder. No matter your style, it’s your delivery that will affect the audience most. And by delivery, I mean the whole package. Looks, style, movement, inflection, AND material. The 2nd video proves it. If that guy never came on stage and just played his Ipad into the mike, he wouldn’t have garnered nearly as much laughter. He doesn’t do a bunch of big movements, but he definatly GIVES a performance with the voice on speaker. Thanks for sharing.

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